March 12, 2013 — Last week, three abortion clinics in Maryland had their licenses to provide surgical abortions suspended at least temporarily for not complying with state regulations, the Baltimore Sun reports (Walker, Baltimore Sun, 3/8).
Last June, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene adopted final regulations requiring clinics that offer surgical abortions to obtain licenses by demonstrating that they meet certain standards for anesthesia, emergency procedures, laboratory and radiologic services. The regulations stem from an incident in 2010 in which a New Jersey physician was found to have illegally performed abortions at the American Women's Services clinic in Elkton, Md. The health department found a "lack of an appropriate transfer procedure for a patient needing emergency care" and also cited complications resulting from poor administration of anesthesia (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26/12).
State health officials suspended the licenses of the three clinics -- all owned by Associates in Ob/Gyn Care -- for issues related to providers' ability to respond to life-threatening problems during surgery.
Bridget Wilson, a spokesperson for the clinics, said they have corrected the problems and are awaiting approval from the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to begin offering surgical abortions again. The clinics continue to offer medication abortions and general ob-gyn services.
Details of Incidents
A patient at one of the clinics in Baltimore experienced cardiac arrest and died. Although the incident was caused by an underlying health condition and not the abortion, the physician performing the abortion was not certified in CPR, and a defibrillator at the clinic did not work.
At another location, a nurse did not know how to use a defibrillator or suction machine, and the pads on the defibrillator had expired. At the third location, investigators observed a patient who was left unattended for three minutes after waking up from anesthesia, which put her at risk for falling and injuring herself (Walker, Baltimore Sun, 3/8).